- The Importance of Being RE+SEARCHER -

Let´s “START”! - How the Technology can "rescue" the rescuers

Information and communication have been one of the main axes to foster development of technology. Okay, but what's new in it! What about if we try to reverse the words in the sentence above…?

Could we use technology as an "excuse" to develop new ways of communication and build a "culture of innovation" as tenacious as possible?

It is the question we asked at the Center for Sensing Solution in Eurac, a renowned research center in Bolzano. Abraham, one of the Senior Researchers, thinking a bit on the question and then ask to us: "May we tell you a story?"

This is the story of project called START, an INTER-REGIONAL project designed to reduce risk in the mountains and promote the use of new technologies.

START, stands for "Smart Test of Alpine Rescue Technology", deals with the strengthening of cross-border institutional cooperation and mountain rescue technologies. The spearhead of the activities of the "newborn" Center for Sensing Solution.

Ah, it sounds like a story from the future. What are the objectives of this ambitious project?

The objectives of the project are: to develop common methods for the introduction of innovative technologies and procedures for dealing with emergency situations as quickly as possible, and to support the cooperation of mountain rescue in border areas, both for joint international missions and for the optimization of the mountain rescue chain beyond the duration of the project.

Ok but, does this have something to do with ordinary people?

...for those who in these mild spring days raise their eyes to the sky from the Talvera and ask themselves: will the mountain ever be a safe place...? all this technology and these satellites will ever be able to help us? or is there anybody out there just ready to observe us...?!"

"I "I don't know this - Abraham replies with a smile - but if someone in these mild spring days looking at the sky thought to venture into one of the paths of the mountains that surround us, he can certainly do so, but we would like him to be as informed as possible about the risks he may encounter.

We try to promote - Abraham continues - the culture of respect in the mountains, collaboration and ongoing training between partners.

Who are the “actors of this show”?

Most of them are mountain rescue teams from provinces and federal states: Österreichische Bergrettung Land Tirol, Alpine and Speleological Rescue South Tyrol CNSAS, Alpine Rescue of the Alpenverein Südtirol, but there is no shortage of universities such as that of Klagenfurt; a health institution such as the ULSScompany N.1 Dolomites, management experts from Noi Techparc (IDM Südtirol), and as associate partner Bergrettung Landesorganisation Kärnten.

Ah well! It seems like a "heterogeneous crew" but, how can partners from so many different sectors coexist?

(Anna, a researcher at Medicine Emergency Mountain, notices our skepticism and come us up with a question, which we promptly address to our readers here):

Do you think is there a connection among these parts? Between a P.hd researcher and an alpine volunteer? Or what´s similar between a skinny scientist, who still studing geology or remote sensing, curved on his desk, whose back looks more and more like that of Giacomo Leopardi, and a big-beard Mountain Rescuer who works daily with emergency calls and must run and fight against time ...?

…Did you answer "Nothing"? - wrong! They are heroes and heroines, people accustomed to "working in the shadows" not very skilled in "building a voice" ... and it is curious that it is difficult for them to explain what they do every day, even if it is their job, or simply they do not pay too much attention to the “form”. Both leaded by the same goal: to improve the conditions of rescue, prevent accidents and ensure the best safety in the mountains. Heterozygous twins, but sons of the same credo: "the search for life".

Given her experience in emergency medicine, we ask Anna: what are the needs and requirements that made this idea mature?

Unfortunately, more and more accidents happen in the mountains for different outdoor activities - says Anna - avalanches, landslides, breakage of ice and rocks during climbing or canyoning, often due to the carelessness of the hikers. The (SaR) Search and Rescue is a critical theme that could be contained using the emerging technologies of Internet of Things - specifies Giulio, Ph.D of the University of torVergata that works on START - thus opening new scenarios on rescue modes and in emergency medicine in the mountains.

But are we sure that these ´new technologies´ do not represent an obstacle during emergency activities?

Absolutely not! - this time they answer in chorus - In fact one of the main concerns of the Center for Sensing Solution - assures us Roberto, Head of the Center - is to use technologies in a ´smart´ but in an utterly non-invasive way, from environmental monitoring to intelligent agriculture, from studies on the performance of materials to web-atlases creations for the sharing of geo-referenced data. In this case, the "noble cause" becomes to build something "light and comfortable" to help those who are used to helping.

Finally, the Center for Sensing Solutions also develops solutions - such as web applications, decision support systems - to optimize research results and business processes. Through multidisciplinary projects, it brings together the expertise of the various research institutes of Eurac Research.

"For example - Giulio tells us, taking the word up - one of the objectives of my Ph.D is to improve the effectiveness of rescue operations, and to improve the intelligence and suitability" of repeaters and transceivers also known as systems ARVA and RECCO, adopted by more than 900 rescue teams worldwide. Studies are underway to optimize the Recco-Detector antenna, developing comfortable textile “transponders”, in order to extend the detection distance and reduce the search time in case of missing persons. In this regard, a drone could map huge areas and, most important, bring 1st aid kits (i.e. defibrillator) flying instead of a larger and heavier more expensive helicopter…

Are you telling us that a drone can save our lives?

"Not just - says Donato, an IVY (Interreg-Volunteer-Youth) collaborator, currently involved on the Communication side – It is difficult to explain the work that researchers do: one thing is to learn something, another is to learn how to teach it to others? It always hard to make it simple.

Researchers have the habit of "looking elsewhere" but often the answers are very close. The idea can come from anyone and often from those who least expect it. And we thought the ´most important word´ was for the Rescuers. That´s way we have launched a questionnaire to LEARN FROM WHOM EVERY DAY FIGHT ON THE FIRST LINE! By offering our knowledge and know-how on "Smart Technologies”

That's right but; what are these SMART-Technologies?

That´s a nice one! To try to explain what SMART Technologies are, we associated examples of applications with some outdoor activities involving rescue personnel. A brainstorming to understand together in which phases it may be possible to "insert a little more technology":

…during the reception of the alarm through emergency Apps or focusing on prevention? To locate victims and mapping risk-areas? Or even bring robotics and I.T. into the heart of rescue operations…?

Let´s see if I´m understanding: Imagine using a DRONE to transport a defibrillator or rescue kit to areas where a common helicopter cannot fly because too bulky and expensive. Or to "match" a SENSOR to an object of daily use: thinking helmets, intelligent bracelets, self-heating clothes... How do you say: too much future?

No, it is already present!! - replied Donato - Surely in an intelligent way. Respecting People, Rules and especially NATURE and THE ENVIRONMENT THAT CIRCULATES US. But to do so it's only necessary to look around and discover new ways to learn to admire and love her.

In fact, one of the objectives of the first meetings - Abraham explains - was to identify a test area not only for technologies but also to organize training and exercises in the Alps, perhaps with some more digital techniques.

Here, too, it must be admitted, we have "aimed high" by choosing a picturesque setting in the heart of the Dolomites, where you can see a spectacular gorge carved by the river from which the park takes its name, we are talking about the GEOPARC BLETTERBACH

But SIMULATING accidents and/or PROMOTE SPORTS courses and activities at high altitudes are just some of the ideas for spreading a culture of innovation. A new way that many rescue Teams are taking is to contact youth associations and schools, to give a strong educational impact.

Even here the I.T. could give its support: to make "the net" exploiting the Net! The Web could be a tool where we can share our skills and where hikers can, for example, 'virtually explore' new paths ... waiting to do it in reality

Okay, you've convinced me. 😊

So all we have to do is say - Let's start! - Smart Technologies - "to the rescue" of the Rescuer! No one must stay behind. No one must feel "lost" anymore!

In the meantime, it was becoming evening, we thank all the members of the Center for Sensing Solution and go home. Now the sky over Bolzano is starry and the sound of the Talvera remind us the movie "Interstellar"... if someone is watching us, this ´someone´ is … Ourself:

Who through new eyes, drones and satellites, observes our planet. Remaining, sometimes insensible, to his and our destiny…

Somewhere in that sky, among those stars, lies all the wisdom, the humility and the importance of being re+searcher.

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